The effects of taxonomy, diet, and ecology on the microbiota of riverine macroinvertebrates

Freshwater macroinvertebrates play key ecological roles in riverine food webs, such as the transfer of nutrients to consumers and decomposition of organic matter. Although local habitat quality drives macroinvertebrate diversity and abundance, little is known about their microbiota. In most animals, the microbiota provides benefits, such as increasing the rate at which nutrients are metabolized, facilitating immune system development, and defending against pathogenic attack. Our objectives were to identify the bacteria within aquatic invertebrates and determine whether their composition varied with taxonomy, habitat, diet, and time of sample collection. In 2016 and 2017, we collected 264 aquatic invertebrates from the mainstem Saint John (Wolastoq) River in New Brunswick, Canada, representing 15 orders. We then amplified the V3-V4 hypervariable region of the 16S rRNA gene within each individual, which revealed nearly 20,000 bacterial operational taxonomic units (OTUs). The microbiota across all aquatic invertebrates were dominated by Proteobacteria (69.25% of the total sequence reads), but they differed significantly in beta diversity, both among host invertebrate taxa (genus-, family-, and order-levels) and temporally. In contrast to previous work, we observed no microbiota differences among functional feeding groups or traditional feeding habits, and neither water velocity nor microhabitat type structured microbiota variability. Our findings suggest that host invertebrate taxonomy was the most important factor in modulating the composition of the microbiota, likely through a combination of vertical and horizontal bacterial transmission, and evolutionary processes. This is one of the most comprehensive studies of freshwater invertebrate microbiota to date, and it underscores the need for future studies of invertebrate microbiota evolution and linkages to environmental bacteria and physico-chemical conditions.